The opinions in this editorial do not necessarily reflect the opinions of those representing NHELD.

School To Careers; The German Roots of Outcome Based Education
By Judy Aron

Have you ever noticed that when a program gets lots of criticism or has been found to have its beginnings based on somewhat dubious agendas, it goes through a number of name changes? The institutional memory of most folks is somewhat short, so typically a program name change and a few tweaks is usually enough to throw most people off track, as well as make them believe that the offending program has died in some committee somewhere and it's funding has also dried up. This is precisely the case with Goals 2000, also known as Outcome Based Education also known as School To Work also known now as School To Career or Work Based Learning. With all of the different names and versions, it sort of reminds me of the serial criminal trying to hide under various fake aliases. Let's take a look at the roots of Outcome Based Education, because I think what you'll see might surprise you.

The American system of education was originally based on the Prussian model (http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/7a.htm ), so it only stands to reason that other components of German schooling have been "borrowed" by those who shape our current education policies. John Taylor Gatto writes in his book, "The Underground History of American Education":

"The Prussian mind, which carried the day, held a clear idea of what centralized schooling should deliver: 1) Obedient soldiers to the army; 2) Obedient workers for mines, factories, and farms; 3) Well-subordinated civil servants, trained in their function; 4) Well-subordinated clerks for industry; 5) Citizens who thought alike on most issues; 6) National uniformity in thought, word, and deed."



"Traditional American school purpose-piety, good manners, basic intellectual tools, self-reliance, etc.-was scrapped to make way for something different. Our historical destination of personal independence gave way slowly to Prussian-purpose schooling, not because the American way lost in any competition of ideas, but because for the new commercial and manufacturing hierarchs, such a course made better economic sense."

This is what School To Work (STW) is all about. In fact, the mission is stated as this: "To create a seamless system of education and workforce preparation for all learners, tied to the needs of a competitive economic marketplace." Essentially The STW plan envisioned by National Center for Education and the Economy (NCEE) includes: (1) the establishment of a "new form of governance," (2) a seamless web-from "cradle to grave" and (3) one system for everyone. What is most alarming is the extent that this model was followed during Hitler's regime and how we have emulated this in today's American public school system.

Allow me to quote, with page numbers, from the 1983 book, Nazism: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts, 1919-1945, edited by J. Noakes and G. Pridham, and I will share with you some very interesting comparisons. First and foremost the fascist government held the belief that it was of utmost importance to capture the children:

"The Nazi leadership appreciated the difficulty of indoctrinating the older generation.... They were all the more determined to mold the new generation along Nazi lines. As the leader of the Nazi Teacher's League, Hans Schemm, put it: 'Those who have the youth on their side control the future.'" (p.416)

When speaking about the schools and their indoctrination of the Hilterjugend (Hitler Youth Corps) Adolph Hitler said , "Let me control the textbooks and I will control the state." (Quoted in William L. Shirer, "Education in the Third Reich," ch. 8, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich). Of course Stalin shared the same ideas and he once said, "Give me your four year olds and in a generation I will build a Socialist state". This is incredibly interesting in light of the current Universal Preschool movement sweeping through our legislatures.

And this German system made sure to teach exactly what it wanted the students to know, which mirrors the politically correct curriculum that American children are currently exposed to day in and day out.

"German youth must no longer... be confronted with the choice of whether it wishes to grow up in a spirit of materialism or idealism, of racism or internationalism, of religious or godlessness, but it must be consciously shaped according to principles which are recognized as correct...according to the principles of the ideology of National Socialism." ( p.432, Noakes and Pridham)


For good or bad, doesn't the American public school system obsessively engage in teaching children the evils of gun ownership, saving the whales, not to smoke cigarettes or eat meat, accepting homosexuality, dutifully recycling, and eschewing any kind of non prescription drug use? There's more, but the list is long and I think you get the idea. There are other interesting messages being disseminated in our "national standards." Whatever happened to teaching children about ethics or the simple purpose of learning and mastering reading, writing, and arithmetic? My own child spent time in school making quilts for AIDS babies compromising the time spent on reading and writing instruction. Subsequently, when his skills went below expectations, the administration wanted him tested for a "learning disability." Thank goodness I had the sense to tell them it was hogwash, removed him from government school, and began to teach him at home. With all of the money we pour into education, and all of the curriculum specialists and special programs, we still have an abominable standing in education as compared to other countries. It never used to be that way. Why? It is because we have adopted models that replaced the ones that used to work quite well for us. The Prussian model, as well as education policies which were employed by Hitler and Stalin, influenced the birth of our current system, and soon you'll see how that came about.

So now that we have most children as a captive audience in the public/government schools, we must also decide what they need to do with their lives, and funnel them into the pipeline of appropriate tracks of study. In 1989 the National Governors' Association Conference on Education, met in Charlottesville, VA and was convened by President George H.W. Bush. Its purpose was to discuss a new emphasis on public and secondary education. The conference was led by Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, and the outcome of this conference was the birth of National Education Goals. Soon after President Bill Clinton took office these goals were expanded and the name was changed to Goals 2000, also known as the Educate America Act which President Clinton signed in 1994. This of course evolved into our present No Child Left Behind legislation, signed by President George W. Bush. Coupled with this education reform, two other pieces of legislation changed the purpose and direction of education. They were the 1994 School-to-Work Opportunities Act (STW), which represented workforce preparation, and the 1998 Workforce Investment Act (WIA) which federalized American job training and economic development. These were the components to the current roadmap towards a planned economy for the US. Our children are no longer just kids that should be educated, but rather "human capital." We are basically seeing the establishment of a three way partnership between of government, business, and educational institutions right before our eyes. http://www.edwatch.org/pdfs/US%20planned%20economy%20-v2.2c%20pdf.pdf

Each state has been quietly revising their content and graduation standards, by which all are assessed and this is being done in conjunction with the established "national standards" in each area of study. Just in case anyone has forgotten, we do have a Tenth Amendment in the Constitution of the US and it spells out quite clearly that the powers not enumerated by the Constitution to the Federal Government are the responsibility of the states. Education is one such power. Yet we are now getting most education mandates from the federal government, enacted state by state only because states are being coerced with federal money to do so. Consider for a moment this quote (p.344, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich), "Prior to 1933, the German public schools had been under the jurisdiction of the local authorities and the universities under that of the individual states. Now all were brought under the iron rule of the Reich Minister of Education." I'd say we have to be real mindful of government taking over education, despite the fact that this has already essentially occurred.

Following the passage of the Federal School-to-Work Opportunities Act, Connecticut's General Assembly passed and the Governor signed into law Public Act 94-116, "An Act Concerning Incentives and Training for High Performance Work Organizations and the School-to-Work Certificate Program." This 1994 statute outlined broad statewide goals for a School To Work system, calling for all students to obtain information about career development, focus on high academic standards, and participate in work-based opportunities.

Ok, so what is so bad about training a child to be prepared for the workforce by the time they leave high school? What is so terrible about a government planned economy? It can be argued that this is a good thing which would prevent kids from getting fancy degrees and ending up waiting tables. It assures that we have adequate training and no employment gluts or dearth. Well, I am not convinced of that because anywhere there has been a planned economy things just have not worked out too well. Narrowing an individual's choice is never a good thing. How is it ever a good thing when an individual's freedom is secondary to society's business need? Is it really right to have an 8th grader either take an aptitude test which decides what fields s/he should go into versus allowing them to explore their dreams? What if this child decides in two years that the track they have been put on is just not for them? It's bad enough having your parents tell you that they want you to be a doctor, let alone the government dictating what you should be doing with your life. Just the notion that high school class time is now being used as labor training (job shadowing) is cause for concern. These kids should be learning the things that could take them anywhere in life, not just one destination. This is what School To Work (STW) or School To Career (STC) is all about, choosing a career at a young age, being tracked into a "learning cluster," and having very limited choices upon completion. Instead of a general diploma, you receive a Certificate of Career Competency, Certificate of Initial Mastery, or as it is called in CT, the "Connecticut Career Certificate" (CCC) which is supposed to demonstrate your competency in one of eight "career clusters." It's supposed to give you a leg up on others that do not have this certification. There are at least 118 CT school districts, 70% of all schools statewide, which are approved to award the CCC in the following clusters:

  • Arts & Media Cluster
  • Business and Finance Cluster
  • Construction Technologies and Design Cluster
  • Environmental, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Cluster
  • Government, Education and Human Services Cluster
  • Health & Biosciences Cluster
  • Retail, Tourism, Recreation and Entrepreneurial Cluster
  • Technologies: Manufacturing, Communications, and Repair Cluster

If you really want to get global you can even pursue the International Baccalaureate Diploma, but that is a subject for whole other article. Interesting to note is that government and education share the same cluster.
The point is this, do we really want to have our lives planned out for us "cradle to grave"? I think not. Yet the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) is quite clearly designed to direct individuals into jobs that meet the needs of "business and the community" - not to meet the needs of individuals. The state and federal government work with business to predict and direct all employment opportunities while determining through testing and accreditation which individuals are qualified to fill jobs.

Consider the School to Work programs and let's make a few comparisons here: taken from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William L. Shirer, 1950, p.366 :

"The 'workbook' was introduced in February 1935, and eventually no worker could be hired unless he possessed one. In it was kept a record of his skills and employment. The workbook not only provided the State and the employer with up-to-date data on every single employee in the nation but was used to tie a worker to his bench. If he desired to leave for other employment his employer could retain his workbook, which meant that he could not legally be employed elsewhere. Finally, on June 22, 1938, a special decree issued by the Office of the Four Year Plan instituted labor conscription. It obliged every German to work where the state assigned him."

Would it shock you to know that similar documents currently exist in our schools? In Connecticut we have what is called "CT Learns" or "Work Based Learning" which includes all of the paperwork necessary to partner with an employer while attending high school. http://www.state.ct.us/sde/deps/Career/WB/index.htm#career

The CT State Department of Education webpage contains all of the information about School to Careers http://www.state.ct.us/sde/deps/Career/STC/index.htm . Every state has these programs, and they exist under various names, but it is all the same thing. Kids today have to develop a lifework plan which is included as one components of their stated Profile of Learning, and in CT it looks like this:

The stated goal is "to introduce the concept of a counselor-guided education and career development process that helps the student/learner, and her/his parents, develop a secondary and post-secondary education and career plan, connecting the student's program of studies with future aspirations. The plan, which is unique to each student/learner, connects school-based activities and work-based activities with career exploration activities, and relates secondary and post-secondary decision-making to these experiences through a thoughtful, exploratory process. This process, while helping to identify personal strengths, talents and goals, hones decision-making skills that will benefit the student/learner throughout life."

Of course they do this in conjunction with signed agreements/contracts made out with various participating employers. http://www.state.ct.us/sde/deps/Career/WB/WB_Plan.pdf In CT, the CT Business and Industry Association (CBIA) is very heavily involved in the process. The connections are there in every state. So basically we have a very neat arrangement happening whereby the state through education funding, courtesy of the taxpayer, will pay to train the human "resources" according to corporate standards, and with birth to three programs and universal preschool in place, corporate training can essentially begin in infancy. And yet, one may wonder why we are still turning out kids who cannot compute 10% of a number, give correct change at a cash register, or write a simple memo.

Think about it for a moment. We have been told by CT State Board of Education administrators that these programs are dead and no longer funded by the federal government, and that they are voluntary in nature and not in place at all schools. But the programs are real and they are in place. The infrastructure for a planned economy is being constructed right under our noses, and no one is complaining, not even the kids who are being tracked. We have come so far away from what the purpose of school is. We should be educating our youth to be well rounded individuals with a strong knowledge of basic material. Instead we have set up programs to create curriculum and tests that reflect the skill set requirements for various jobs as well as some of the psychological behaviors necessary to become productive and compliant employees. Our children have become mere "human resource material." The education establishment believes firmly that a high school diploma no longer guarantees anything with regard to employment opportunities and that kids need to be better prepared to go into specific careers or to go on to college. They also believe that these programs are a way to help kids become better prepared for the work environment. They say that the job market is a much more complicated place now and that kids need to be able to do job shadowing and interning in order to figure out what they want to do in life. The question remains: is it the school's job to do this? Subsequently, colleges are upset that kids are showing up with none of the skills that they need to succeed in specific studies and spend much time in remedial or catch up courses to prepare them for a specific course of study. One would think that classes in high school should adequately prepare kids for college and that skills in many careers are very transferable. Colleges expect that most kids attending college are undeclared in majors for the first two years, which is why they usually have a broad course of study and general course requirements which are covered in those first two years.

Consider that the job training that STW promotes requires time away from school to job-shadow or work at a business. It has been reported that some of these kids are even job shadowing in places which are typically low paying jobs like Burger King. Is it right for kids to give up time studying math, reading, writing and other subjects in place of performing work? Proponents say that after a child returns from the work place they must write something about it, and thereby they are incorporating the academics into the work experience. They say that kids need to see the reason why they have to learn certain subjects, like algebra and how those skills are needed or relevant in the workplace. Where is the notion that one learns for the sake of enlightenment and self-growth rather than because one day you will have to know it? Kids are not being shown that the reason they learn geometry is not because they will use it in their job but because it teaches them a way to think logically. Education policy has truly lost its way and the taxpayers and children are paying a heavy price for a system set upon them by business and the state.

Without diligence in protecting freedom, allowing creeping incrementalism of socialist and fascist ideas may be our downfall. As I do not place the blame squarely on "liberalism" itself, I offer this quote by Norman Thomas, a Socialist and member of the Civil Liberties Union: "The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism, but under the name of liberalism, they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program until one day America will be a Socialist nation without ever knowing how it happened."

The question is: what will you do about it?

For more information read:
http://www.edwatch.org/pdfs/US%20planned%20economy%20-v2.2c%20pdf.pdf - visual explanation of STW
http://www.eagleforum.org/educate/1999/apr99/american_economy.html - Planning the American Economy
http://www.eagleforum.org/educate/1997/may97/holland.html - What's Wrong With School To Work?
http://www.crossroad.to/text/articles/tnmfobe1196.html - The Nazi Model for Outcome Based Education
http://www.rmfc.org/fs/fs0032.html - STW Rocky Mountain Family Council
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human%5Fcapital - definition of Human Capital
http://www.edinformatics.com/curriculum/curriculum.htm - National Curriculum
http://www.state.ct.us/sde/deps/Career/STC/findings_stc_eval.pdf - Evaluation of Connecticut's School-to-Career System


http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/index.htm The Underground History of American Education - John Taylor Gatto

http://www.deliberatedumbingdown.com/pages/book.htm Deliberate Dumbing Down of America - Charlotte Iserbyt

http://www.beverlye.com/ - The Cloning of the American Mind - Beverly Eakman

Learning a Living: A Blueprint for High Performance - A SCANS Report for America 2000, U.S. Dept. of Labor, 1992